On this day January 5: Mayor Madhu Kinnar


madhu kinnar january 5
Images: Madhu Bai Facebook

On January 5 2015, Madhu Kinnar became mayor of the industrial city of Raigarh in the Indian state of Chhattisgarh. She was then India’s only openly transgender mayor.

Madhu Kinnar left school after eighth grade. As a member of the Dalit community, she had limited employment options. Previously known as ‘untouchables’, Dalits traditionally work in menial sanitation jobs.

Additionally, transgender Indians face relentless discrimination, often disowned by birth families. So, in the grand tradition of queer people worldwide, they find their own families. Madhu left home in her teens and joined the local hijra community. She earned a living through singing and dancing and performing odd jobs.

However, she became increasingly concerned by the poor sanitation in Raigarh. So she stood for election.

“There were no proper sidewalks. The alleys were dirty and piled high with garbage. Poor people, abandoned in their old age, slept in the streets with nothing to keep them warm. We decided to do something – by running for this election.”

Although two previous transgender candidates won Indian mayoral elections, courts later declared their victories null and void. But nine months before the Raigarh municipal election, the Supreme Court acknowledged the transgender community as a legal third gender.

Sanitation

Madhu spent about AU$1300 on her election campaign. But her platform of improving sanitation appealed to locals disillusioned with the track record of India’s two major parties.

Campaign workers like Ramesh Singh, formerly of the Congress party, defected to Madhu.

“Neither BJP nor Congress managed to get any work done in Raigarh in the last 15 years.”

Madhu won the election by 4,537 votes.

A local social worker attributed the win to her independence from the political establishment.

“She has come from the crossroads of two marginalised communities in India. She won the local election on her own terms and [with] her own earnings – not through a fancy campaign. And she has become a leader for the people.”

Immediately following her swearing-in as Mayor, Madhu began daily inspections of the city’s streets, wells, markets and sanitation systems.

“People have shown faith in me,” she said, “I consider this win as love and blessings of people for me. I’ll put in my best efforts to accomplish their dreams.”

Read more: January 4 <— On this day —> January 6

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